Frankenstein Literary Analysis
Table of Contents
“Frankenstein” was anonymously published in 1818 after its authorship as a competitive piece. Mary Shelly and her friends had a competition to write a scary novel during her time, a move that launched her novel to levels of generational acceptance where it has an audience to date. The story is filled with the romanticism of its authorship era, reflecting the ambitious and monstrous features of the same. The ambition birthed by isolation and melancholia is a theme dominating the novel, similar to how celebrated it was in the romanticism era (Night, 2016). Also, monstrosity, another domineering theme in the novel, was present in the romanticism era, also birthed by the celebration of the pathetic fallacy of the era (Pager-McClymont, 2021). Mary Shelley presents these themes using her crafty use of symbolism, a dreary and despairing tone, and a style full of complex diction.
Shelly presents this theme of Ambition through Victor and Wilton, as seen by their tedious journeys. The story begins with Wilton describing to his sister through a series of letters his deep desire to “…accomplish some great purpose” (Shelley, 2001). He confesses that he prefers glory to wealth, and the long and challenging voyage to discover a pathway northwards to the pacific will serve just that purpose. His ambition also shows through his description of the voyage as “a long and difficult voyage” that will need his “fortitude” (Shelley, 2001). The journey is dangerous and lonely, so he gets trapped due to impenetrable ice, yet he does not reach his destination. This ambitious drive in Wilton sets the theme as the story ushers the character Victor, another epitome of ambition.
Victor, a science enthusiast, embarks on a scientific ambition to discover the secret of life and create one. He compares his ambition to other destructive pursuits like the discovery of America, enslavement of the Greeks, destruction of Mexico and Peru, and Satan’s ambition to become God (Shelley, 2001). Victor’s enormous ambition was very grandiose that it finally consumed him. His creation’s results were so grotesque that he tried to escape his action and decided not to destroy a second monstrous creature. Shelly fulfills her thematic purpose of presenting ambitions and the dangers through Victor Frankenstein, the novel’s main character.
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The science fiction gothic piece has both literal and metaphorical monsters supporting the theme of monstrosity. Victor takes up his ambitious idea to create a live creature using the remains of previously living things. This fallible move alone foreshadows a resulting grotesque creature since victor’s blind ambition gives way to his weakness without his conscious realization. The creation is terrifying that victor, its creator, escapes from the room. Eventually, the monster commits monstrous acts of murder, trying to get Victor’s attention. Also, it contributes heavily to his destruction, a sad consequence of his action. Besides the monstrous creature, Victor is monstrous for creating such a being and escaping the responsibility of his creation. He also allows Justine, an innocent person, to take the blame for a murder his creation committed (Shelley, 2001). He seeks revenge for Elizabeth’s death yet contributes to the same due to his ignorance of the monster’s pleas. Monstrosity dominates the novel after ambitious pursuits, complimenting the horrific nature of the novel.
The author uses the monster to symbolize people’s actions, building on the theme of monstrosity and Ambitious pursuits. Victor’s ambition drives him to seek after the secret of life so that he can satisfy these desires. Blindly giving in to these dangerous ambitions, his actions produce a monstrous and destructive creature that torments others beginning with him. The monster is a product of conscious action, just like many actions humans take in the name of ambition. The monster represents the results of the actions people often ignore and suffer from the same instead of correcting them. Like Victor’s death and leaving the monster with others, people’s actions are always left behind even when they die, which creates their legacy. This symbol shows how people’s uncorrected actions are monstrous to them and others if not corrected on time.
Shelly uses a despairing tone to fulfill the theme of monstrosity and blind ambition. The letters set a hopeful tone as Wilton describes the success of his journey so far before meeting Victor. The sickly condition of Victor sets the despairing tone that even the bright accomplishments he narrates, the bleak tone shadows them. This tone makes it easy to create a pessimistic aura toward Victor’s ambition and sets the platform for the grotesque imagery of the monster. This tone eases the delivery of Wilton’s and Victor’s futile ambitions. Therefore, the themes come out more evidently with a bleak tone.
The author uses a formal style with a language filled with complex diction. This style is visible when the characters are describing the intensity of emotions surrounding their ambitions. Walton describes his loneliness on the voyage, using an intensively lonely and complex diction, which further describes the tediousness of his ambition. For instance, Victor describes his loneliness by explaining the traits of a friend he desires to have. He says, “I have no one near me… of a cultivated as well as a capacious mind” (Shelley, 2001). He describes a complicated idea of a friend he needs on the voyage. Likewise, Victor shares how his professor’s classes during college made him feel, saying, “Such were the professor’s words… one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being” (Shelley, 2001). He explains that the classes made him have one purpose, to discover the secret of living. The use of complicated and poetic diction describes the ambition’s intensity, further supporting the corresponding theme.
Shelly’s novel is a thematic piece majoring in monstrosity and ambitions, showing the wrong side of the two and the resulting futility. The novel teaches how monstrous actions and their results remain on earth even after one’s death, using the monster to symbolize people’s actions. Further, the despairing tone eased the delivery of the monstrosity theme, while the style of complex diction added weight to the theme of ambition.
- Night, D. M. (2016). Romanticism and the Sciences. In Science in the Romantic Era (pp. 47-58). Routledge.
- Pager-McClymont, K. (2021). Communicating Emotions through Surroundings: a Stylistic Model of Pathetic Fallacy (Doctoral dissertation, University of Huddersfield).
- Shelley, M. (2001). Frankenstein . New York: Oxford.